Yang Guifei's Welcome Feast
Originally published in the September 2012 issue of Empirical
It is winter, where snow deceives,
ambushing the foot by surprise.
What can one say of beauty?
It is a jade key that opens
many doors, but its keeper
can never be certain if others
desire only the key
to unlock what they could not possess.
Paint brushed with ice, the rocks
are pale, ringneck pheasants nesting on a river
whose skin has thickened so callous,
their shadows can circle their lover slow.
Emperor Xuanzong’s dishes welcome me
like the funeraries of those dragged
to visit my house guests, exile and execution.
Their rooms empty, fill, and empty again,
their occupants vanishing like shadow puppets
before their songs can shove pinions from their mouths.
Or because their song is heard as it flutters away,
by a relative who burns a candle across the courtyard,
or their friend whose pillow is shoved at an adjoining wall.
I set this pair of elm chopsticks down
with the clatter of tiles, to suck the fat
off braised pork legs,
Watch my fingers sink roots into medicinal congee,
throwing the bowl like a head onto the floor.
Give me the milk flesh
of a fresh chilled lychee.
When I suck
the gristle between the knuckles,
a growl vibrating for his mouth,
my neighbors will forever squabble like ducks
over which was greater,
my love of ambition, or the ambition of my love.
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